Friday, April 20, 2012

Recognition of Grace

James. Peter and John, those reputed to be pillars,
 gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship
when they recognized the grace given to me.
They agreed we should go to the Gentiles and then to the Jews.”
Galatians 2:9 (NIV)

            Paul had difficulties in trying to be recognized for his new spiritual heart. In his pre-salvation days, his plan was to put an end to the sect that called themselves Christians. He had killed several of those who claimed to follow the Lord.
            In Jerusalem, a man named Joseph, an encourager, earned the nickname,” Son of Encouragement’ or Barnabas. He felt drawn to those who needed to be built up. Thus, he befriended Paul. Barnabas saw the change of heart in Paul and encouraged him to continue in his new found mission to expand God’s kingdom.
            Because of Barnabas’ standing with him, Paul was accepted and approved by the Jerusalem Christians. The body of believers extended the right hand of fellowship to both Paul and Barnabas.
            James, Peter, and John recognized the grace- the unmerited favor- given to Paul by the Lord Jesus Christ. Seeing this must have come as a result of lots of prayer to the three who had been very close to the Lord. The apostles accepted Paul and granted their approval of him.

            In my teen and early adult years, the denomination in which I worshipped extended the right hand of fellowship to believers who aligned themselves in their churches when they came from another church of that group. I haven’t heard of this expression in several years. As I have researched this I wonder if people on both sides of the act realize the meaning of this term-acceptance and approval.
            As children of God, we seek His approval. We should measure ourselves according to God’s standard. All other instances of judgment fall under His purview.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Becoming Like Christ

“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection
and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.”
Philippians 3:10 (NIV)

            “. . . power of his resurrection . . .” Christianity is the only religion in the world that claims a risen Savior. Our beliefs stem from Jesus’ being resurrected and risen from the grave. This basis of our Christianity influences those who come to the cross. We serve a risen Savior.
            “. . . fellowship of sharing in his sufferings. . . ” As we get to know Jesus as our personal Savior, we begin to see things with His eyes. Our perspective changes from a ‘me’ outlook to more circumspect outlook. We learn to think in terms of how we model Christ to those around us.
            “. . . becoming like him in his deathJesus displayed obedience to the Father-at Gethsemane, before Pilate, and by going to the cross. In becoming like Jesus we learn to develop and exhibit compassion for those who hurt, patience for those who struggle to find their way, and model obedience to God.
            We can only display godly attributes as we learn of His ways. As we grow closer to God we will become more like Him in our lives.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Accepting What We Cannot Change

God, Grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change.
Courage to change the things I can
and the wisdom to know the difference.
-Reinhold Niebuhr

Often we hear of events that happen which leave people with a bad feeling. We wonder why they or even we have to experience these traumas. When we choose to follow Christ and we see evil inflicted on those who share our faith, we wonder why.

We live in a fallen world. Crime rates soar in spite of having well-trained police forces.
As I watch the crime dramas on television, I see crimes committed that society didn’t
know about when I was a child. People didn’t lock their doors. My parents didn’t even lock up when we went away, until we came home one night and found things missing. The television which normally sat on a heavy wrought iron stand was in the floor as we entered through the front door.

Present day, we can’t read the paper or listen to the news without hearing of crimes involving drugs, unspeakable acts against women and children, and man’s inhumanity to man. Recently, a man shot another man a couple of blocks from where a friend of mine lives. When I told my husband about our city having a shooting, his answer was, “Another one?” I took it to mean “We have them all the time.”

God allows events to happen to us in order to draw us closer to Him. We experience certain circumstances in our lives that we have to work through with God’s help. When we realize someone or a happening in our daily walk has hurt us, all we can do is seek His guidance.

When we realize we have caught a cold or the current ‘bug’ going around, we have to alter our habits and activities in order to care for ourselves. That usually means we take on more fluids to flush out the germs. We may or may not need to go to the doctor to receive help in getting well. We can not ignore the signs. While we exercise habits to keep these illnesses away, sometimes they do get through our lines of defense.

Learning to accept what comes our way is a result of Christian growth and maturity. I especially like the ending of the Serenity Prayer. Sometimes, things happen we can change. We may not want to because the change requires work or establishing new habits on our part. We do have to exercise wisdom to discern whether we can change or accept the situation. There are times the thing that needs to change is our heart.
I remember a time when I cried out for God to give me His wisdom. My grandmother, a nursing home resident, had to go to the ER. There was a mix up as to which hospital she was to go to. The nurse on duty made arrangements for transportation to the facility across town. Her new doctor saw his patients at the hospital practically next door. My mother and her husband were on vacation. I was ‘in charge’ of seeing to Grandma’s needs. I didn't know what to do. Was I supposed to call them home? Was I supposed to handle this on my own and then tell them about it when they called? After I cried out to God, I went over to the hospital and checked in on her. She told me she had a spell of some sort earlier. A couple from our church visited her while she had this sensation. I came straight home and called my mother and told her what had happened. God did answer my prayer. I am thankful He did.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Thankfulness for Friendship

            I am doing the Random Journal Day exercise with Dawn over at Beneath the Surface and others. The way it works is we look through our old journals and find an entry that speaks to us and we post it. The poem I posted last week was my first try at posting anything from a journal entry.
            The following has some personal thoughts but that was what I thought as I reflected on the idea of friendship and how thankful I am to have the relationships I have.
This was originally written on November 24, 2008

            God does something for His children that blesses us all. He creates friendships among them.
            Several years ago, a mother with a teenage son chose to worship in another church. The woman faced a dire prospect in her life—her husband, involved in self-destructive behavior, could have succumbed to his life-style. Her son, who had a physical disability, hadn’t done well in school and had no close ties to anyone among his peers.
            She made the change in churches as a scared, troubled, and depression-prone person. She met people who looked past her problems and saw her heart. Because of these people, she grew in the Lord. Her son established some friendships, as well.
            Most of these friendships are strong, even today. (That small church has closed its doors and the people have scattered.) But several of those people are worshipping in the church where she and her husband now attend. God did an outstanding work when He forged friendships for this woman.

            I am the woman in this journal entry. At this ‘new’ church I have been able to make more friends. Due to the size of the church, I don’t get to know everyone as well as I would like but I know this: When I have a need, people do not hesitate to call and ask how we are doing. When my dad died, three sisters were coming in the front door of the church as I was going out. They each one stopped and gave me a big hug. When they put together a slideshow of the veterans’ pictures, I asked if I could submit one of my dad, since he had been a Marine. They let me. When I started in with depression a short time later, one of the ladies showed concern. When my husband was in the hospital and had undergone two surgeries similar to Peyton Manning in less than a week. The doctor talked about going in a third time. He was panicked, I was trying to be there for him and still didn’t understand what was happening, One of those dear friends who took me in all those many years ago said she’d come sit with me at the hospital, no matter how early it was.
            I thank God for forging these friendships. 

Fear, Courage: God Is With Us  Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD ...